Avery Denhart knows it’s in his best interest to keep his offensive linemen happy, and what lineman isn’t joyful on a full stomach?
The Central Catholic junior quarterback has shown his appreciation for the guys protecting him with free meals, with his father footing the bill of course.
It’s gratitude for a unit that mows down defenders and provides ample time for Denhart to find a receiver or the running backs to run through crater-sized openings before a dazzling display of speed, power and agility in the second level.
For that, they’re fed. Five monstrous teenagers sit around a 6-foot-3, 160-pound quarterback and at a table gaining invaluable bonding experiences that carry over to the football field as they’ve plowed their way to Friday’s Class A state championship game against Linton-Stockton.
“It is a thing my dad started and we’ve done a few times,” Denhart said. “It gives me a chance to give back to my linemen after all they do for us.”
Central Catholic’s five starting offensive linemen average 266 pounds, with center David Sanchez dragging that average down a bit weighing in at 220.
Their size is staggering.
So are the offensive numbers they’re the catalyst for.
The Knights average 53.4 points and 382 yards per game. Anthrop has scored 55 touchdowns, 43 of those on the ground. The Knights have started two quarterbacks and in Denhart’s absence because of an injury, Carlos Velasquez completed nearly 70 percent of his passes.
Running backs Jackson Anthrop and Brandon Yeagy average 9.6 and 9.7 yards per carry, respectively, on a combined 274 carries, yet neither has the longest run from scrimmage. That honor goes to junior Luke Neihouser, who scored on an 81-yard run earlier this season.
The starters rarely have been afforded a full game because of lopsided scores or those astronomical figures may be even higher.
“We take a lot of pride in it. We always love to see them go running for touchdowns,” left guard Jack Reifenrath said. “You’ll look to your right and see your buddy putting someone on his back and you get to celebrate with him, too.”
It’s not by accident this group has had this much success.
They’re experienced and have shared the blocking duties side by side for multiple seasons.
They’ve built continuity and share the same desire to win state championships and uphold a Central Catholic tradition. Last season, the Knights dropped a semistate game at Rensselaer, then watched the Bombers throttle Evansville Mater Dei a week later in the state championship.
“Last year we fell short, but through the summer, we worked hard and told ourselves we were going to get here this year,” right guard Robbie Eberhard said. “Obviously this is something we’ve worked for all year, but we aren’t treating it like it is some glorified game. We’re just going to go out there and do our job.”
Cronk stands out in a group of standouts. He’s 6-foot-5 and plays both ways. In addition to two fistfuls of scholarship offers, Cronk doubles as CC’s second-leading tackler. Sanchez has been on both sides of the trench, moving from offensive line to defensive line last season and coming back to snap to Denhart this season.
Guards Reifenrath, who goes by the nickname “Ham,” and Eberhard are the heaviest of the bunch. Junior Jake Yeaman, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound left tackle, is especially important in protecting Denhart’s back side and the only non-senior.
“They are unreal,” Denhart said. “Without our O-line, the running game and passing game wouldn’t be as good as it is.”